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Somewhere in fairytale land: King Azuki Momoyama (Mikijiro Hira) wants
to be the most beautiful human alive ... but unfortunately, his son,
Prince Amechiyo (Jo Odagiri), is even more handsome than he is - so he has
him (like his mother before him) banished to Sacred Castle, a place from
where noone has ever returned. However, Ostrich, the ninja supposed to
bring him to the castle, is stopped cold by a group of peasants on the
way, and - thought to be a raccoon - captured to be cooked later on.
Amechiyo meets Princess Raccoon (Zhang Ziyi), a raccoon in human form,
and the two frolic around in the woods a bit before she brings him back to
Raccoon Castle where the Prince, not a raccoon and therefore a possible
threat, is put in a cage. Still, Amechiyo and Princess Raccoon soon fall
in love ...
Soon enough, the Maid of Virgin, Azuki's right hand woman, comes to
claim Amechiyo's head and captures him and Princess Raccoon, but in a duel
of stone-paper-scissors, Hagi, the Princess' handmaid, defeats the
Maid of Virgin and kills her (!), thus freeing both Prince and Princess.
The two lovebirds now see themselves free to marry, but Hagi still
thinks Amechiyo's a threat to the Princess and to Castle Raccoon, so she
persuades him to leave. However, Princess Raccoon goes after her lover and
catches up with him just when he comes face to face with his father Azuki.
In a fight, the Princess kills Azuki but is herself gravely wounded, and
will die eventually if not treated with the Frog of Paradise. Since
Prince Amechiyo would do anything for his love, he sets out to find the
Frog of Paradise, a long and perilous journey, and when he has finally
found it, he is to weak to bring it back to Castle Raccoon. Out of
jealousy though, Hagi has gone after Amechiyo, but when she sees him
dieing but still handing the Frog of PAradise over to her to bring her
Princess, she sees him in another light.
Back at Castle raccoon, Princess Raccoon is cured by the Frog of
Paradise, but when she hears that Amechiyo died trying to retrieve it, she
In the land of the dead, Amechiyo and Azuki have their final showdown,
which Amechiyo wins when his father notices how horribly disfigured he has
Back in Castle Raccoon, some kids try the Frog of Paradise on the
bodies of Princess Raccoon and Prince Amechiyo again - and wouldn't you
know it, the frog still works and restores them back to life ... and they
can live happily ever after, even though he is a man and she is a raccoon
No matter what kind of movies you normally watch, it's a safe bet to
say this film is like nothing you've ever seen (with the possible
exception of Seijun Suzuki's own somehow similar Pistol
Opera): While quite clearly a
children's fairy tale in story and a musical or operetta by genre, in
style it's a wild, even outrageous mixture of elements of Kabuki as well
as Shakespearean theatre, fantasy as well as avant garde film, of modern
CGI and most primitive stage effects, of all different kinds of music from
operetta to pop and rock and even rap, and even in sets, the film is
(deliciously) undecided between realistic outdoor sets and sloppily
painted stage backdrops. But if all that sounds like lacking a concept or
forced, brainheavy or heavy handed, the film isn't, it's light, it's
fresh, it's entertaining, it's even funny - and it shows that even at 82,
director Seijun Suzuki is one of the most creative and most unpredictable
directors of Japanese cinema.